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Throat cancer: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About throat cancer

Throat cancer refers to cancers originating from the larynx. Squamous carcinoma is the most common malignant tumour, being responsible for more than 90% of tumours within the larynx.

Throat cancer: Incidence, age and sex

Each year, about 2,200 people in the U.K. are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. It is the most common head and neck cancer and previously almost always occurred in elderly male smokers. However incidence among women is rising as a consequence of increased smoking habits.

Signs & symptoms of throat cancer: Diagnosis

Patients almost always present with hoarseness. The other symptoms include a sore throat, cough, pain or difficulty in swallowing, eight loss for no known reason, ear pain, lump in the back of the mouth, throat or neck, breathing difficulty and bleeding from the throat or blood-tinged sputum.Endoscopy with biopsy and imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of throat cancer

Throat cancer is associated with smoking tobacco, heavy alcohol use, diet low in fruits and vegetables and chewing betel quid. The risk may be reduced by quitting alcohol and tobacco.

Throat cancer: Complications

Possible complications include airway obstruction, difficulty in swallowing, disfigurement of the neck or face, loss of voice and speaking ability and spread of the cancer to other body areas (metastasis).

Throat cancer: Treatment

Specific treatment depends on the location, type, and stage of the tumour. Treatment may involve surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy, alone or in combination.

Early supraglottic and glottic tumours, stages 1 and 2, are optimally treated with megavoltage radiotherapy. If radiotherapy is not feasible, tumours may be excised by means of endoscopic laser surgery or open partial laryngeal surgery.

Once the squamous carcinoma has caused fixation of the vocal gold or has infiltrated outside the larynx subtotal or total laryngectomy is required.

The loss of the larynx as a generator of sound does not prevent patients speaking as long as an alternative source of vibration can be created in the pharynx.